10 Things You Might Not Know About Madame Tussauds Wax Museum

There's a certain creepiness to wax museums. That's probably why so many people are drawn to Madame Tussauds locations around the world. Yes, they're cheesy tourist traps, but sometimes you just can't help yourself.

1. MADAME ANNA MARIA TUSSAUD (A.K.A. MARIE) WAS A REAL PERSON.

Her mother served as the housekeeper for Dr. Philippe Curtius, who made wax models to illustrate anatomy. She picked up the trade from him. You can see Madame Tussaud in her own museum: She did her own portrait in wax just eight years before she died at the ripe old age of 89 (reports of her age at death vary).

2. SHE ENDED UP BECOMING MORE FAMOUS FOR HER WORK THAN HER MENTOR.           

Her work was so well-known that she was invited to be part of the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette so she could teach art to the king's sister. The sad part? Madame Tussaud ended up making her former employers' death masks after they were executed in the French Revolution.

3. THEY ONCE FEATURED A LIVE MODEL.

In 2010, Ozzy Osbourne posed as himself and gave unsuspecting visitors quite a scare. (Check it out here.)

4. ONE MUSEUM WAS HIT BY GERMAN BOMBS.

In 1940, Madame Tussauds of London was hit by German bombs. More than 350 head molds were destroyed. 

5. A HITLER STATUE DIDN'T STAY INTACT VERY LONG.

In 2008, a German man rushed past security on the opening day of the Berlin Madame Tussauds and ripped Hitler's head off. A sign asked people to refrain from posing with or taking pictures of the statue, but didn't specify that decapitation was prohibited as well. "It disturbs me that Hitler should become a tourist attraction," the attacker said. 

6. SOME PEOPLE HAVE DECLINED TO BE HONORED WITH A STATUE. MOTHER TERESA WAS ONE OF THEM.

Madame Tussauds wanted to make a figure of Mother Teresa, but she told them no—one of the only people to ever do so. She insisted that her works were more important than her physical being.

7. IT TAKES ABOUT 150 MEASUREMENTS FOR THE ARTISTS AT MADAME TUSSAUDS TO CREATE A GOOD LIKENESS OF THE PERSON THEY'RE PORTRAYING.

Sometimes famous people sit for measurements more than once. Queen Elizabeth, for example, has modeled for a variety of different poses over the years.

8. ALL FIGURES ARE MADE TWO PERCENT LARGER THAN THE PERSON REALLY IS. 

That's how much the wax is expected to shrink throughout the entire process.

9. THE SMALLEST WAX FIGURE MADAME TUSSAUDS HAS EVER MADE IS TINKERBELL.

They do occasionally do figures of fiction—other than Tinkerbell, they've also made wax figures of Shrek, the Burger King, and the Incredible Hulk.

10. THERE’S NO APOSTROPHE IN MADAME TUSSAUDS.

The grammar geek in you might wonder why the museum isn't referred to as Madame Tussaud's, with an apostrophe. Though it may look weird, Merlin Entertainment Group decided that since Madame Tussaud no longer actually owns the franchise, there's really no need for the possessive-indicating apostrophe. So they simply got rid of it. 

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The Hidden Meanings Behind 11 Common Tombstone Symbols

Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Tombstone symbols can sometimes be hard to interpret.
Photo by Brett Sayles from Pexels

Walk through any cemetery in the world and you’ll find a solemn landscape that honors loved ones that have passed on. Accompanying the inscriptions of names, dates, and family crests are some common symbols that crop up repeatedly on tombstones. If you’ve ever wondered what they could mean, take a look at some of the explanations behind the graveyard graphics.

1. Eye

The eyes have it.Valerie Everett, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

If you feel someone may be looking at you in the cemetery, you might be near a tombstone engraved with an eye. Often surrounded in a burst of sunlight or a triangle, an eye typically represents the all-seeing eye of God and could denote that the decedent was a Freemason.

2. Clasped Hands

Hands on a tombstone can mean several things.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

Seeing two hands clasped together can illustrate shaking hands or holding hands, depending on the position of the thumbs. A handshake can mean a greeting to eternal life. If clasped hands have different cuffs, it could indicate a bond between the deceased and a spouse or relative. If one hand is higher than the other, it could also mean that a person is being welcomed by a loved one or a higher power. The hand engraving grew into wide use during the Victorian era.

3. Dove

Doves appear in a variety of poses on tombstones.Tim Green, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A dove usually symbolizes peace and the Holy Spirit, but its specific meaning depends on how the bird is posed. If it’s flying upward, the soul is ascending to heaven. If it’s flying down, it represents the Holy Spirit arriving at the baptism of Jesus Christ. If it’s holding an olive branch in its mouth, it refers to an ancient Greek belief that olive branches could ward off evil spirits.

4. Broken Chain

Chains on tombstones can be linked or broken.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Medieval wisdom once held that a golden chain kept the soul in the body. In death, the chain is broken and the soul is freed. If the chain is unbroken and if it features the letters FLT (for Friendship, Love, and Truth), it probably means the deceased belonged to the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, a fraternal organization that seeks to promote charitable causes and offer aid.

5. Book

The meaning of a book on a tombstone isn't always easy to read.Carl Wycoff, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

Was the deceased an avid reader? Maybe, but not necessarily. An open book on a tombstone might refer to a sacred text like the Bible, the “book of life,” or the person’s willingness to learn. If you see a dog-earned corner on the right side, it could indicate the person’s life ended prematurely and before their “book” was finished.

6. Finger Pointing Up

An index finger pointing up can direct visitors to look up.Christina Ramey, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A hand with the index finger raised skyward is one of the more ambiguous symbols found in graveyards. It might be pointing to heaven, or indicate the fact that the decedent has risen from the land of the living.

7. Corn

Ears of corn could mean the deceased was a farmer.mike krzeszak, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

A corn stalk on a tombstone means the deceased could have been a farmer; it used to be a custom to send corn instead of floral arrangements to a farmer’s family. It might represent other kinds of grain. Alternately, corn seeds can symbolize rebirth.

8. Scroll

Scrolls on a tombstone can refer to an unknown future.Kelly Teague, Flickr // CC BY-SA 2.0

A scroll engraved on a tombstone with both ends rolled up can indicate that part of life has already unfolded while the future is hidden.

9. Lamp

Lamps can mean a love of knowledge.Sean, Flickr // CC BY-ND 2.0

A lamp on a tombstone could speak to a love of learning or knowledge, or it might refer to how the spirit is immortal.

10. Camel

Camels aren't something you'd expect to see on a tombstone.Glen, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

While this particular camel signifies the Imperial Camel Corps that occupied desert regions during World War I, a camel can also represent a long journey or a skilled guide—in this case, for the afterlife.

11. Hourglass

An hourglass can be a message to the living.justiny8s, Flickr // CC BY 2.0

As you may have guessed, the hourglass symbolizes the march of time. An hourglass on its end may mean the deceased died suddenly, while a winged hourglass communicates how quickly time flies. It may also be construed as a message to the living—time is short, so don’t waste it.